Local dance teacher, Lauren Rafferty, and her group of dancers recently recorded a video at Saltwell Park. Their dance is a fusion of modern ‘Western’, with Kizomba. Kizomba is an African dance, originating from Angola and is normally danced with a partner.
“Unfortunately due to the pandemic, when we started rehearsals we were having to remain socially distant but with only three weeks before recording began, we were finally allowed to dance in partners when restrictions lifted on 19 July.
“Therefore there is only a small section in the video where we actually dance in partners.
“Dance has always been the biggest part of my life since I was three but I discovered Kizomba only six years ago and I completely fell in love with it, spending most weekends travelling across the country and sometimes internationally to learn, dance and teach at events.
“Since the pandemic hit in March 2020 there has been a very large community unable to do what they love and have an outlet, this is where the idea came from. I have always been very careful when teaching Kizomba as I’m crossing cultural lines and I believe it’s very important to respect and encourage learning of the culture to keep the dance’s true form.
“Due to it being a partner dance, it was hard to maintain people’s interest through online classes because many didn’t have a partner to learn with and so my former dance training kicked in and I decided to fuse styles and play around with creating some new movements so that people can be active and still get enjoyment through the dances they love.
From the North East
“This was something I was always worried to do but I realised that dance is an art form which evolves and is used as a way to express ourselves and be creative. I have trained professionally in many forms of dance and so believe I can respect and do justice to the different styles through my choreography.
“This is now the third project I have done, the first being a solo, the second being taught online and the third finally being taught in person and in partners! I love it and looking back on it all is a little emotional as it kind of shows the progression of coming out of lockdown and the crazy 1.5 years we’ve had. “
The music and the dancers
“The music I choose for this project, Djodje – Bela, was purely because I think it’s beautiful and a very pleasant song to listen to and he has a beautiful, soothing voice. I also love the use of the guitar throughout the song and felt rhythmically there was a lot to play with.”
“The dancers are all students of mine, all of varying levels, some have been with me for a number of years, and some joined me just as the pandemic hit. It’s great that we have still managed to keep a sense of community throughout the lockdowns and people are still as eager to dance as ever.
“What I’ve loved about these projects is that people with no dance background at all have joined us and have loved every minute of it. The sense of achievement they have when they see the final product is great and I’m so proud of all of them for their hard work, commitment and dedication and so thankful that they put their trust in me to teach them.”
Lindsay Dickinson, one of the dance team has this to say:
“I had a fantastic time doing Lauren’s course. It was great to challenge myself, and I learned things which I never thought I’d be able to do. She’s a great teacher, and her passion for dance and teaching is evident.”
The video is absolutely beautiful, creative and magical.
“The videographer is a dear friend of mine, Miruna Popa. She’s extremely creative and has a passion for photography and videography. She began exploring videography just before the pandemic hit and I believe has a natural talent for it. I’m very grateful to have had her work on all three of my projects with me as its been a journey for us both.”
Lauren’s dance journey
I asked Lauren about how she started dancing:
“This is a bit embarrassing if I’m honest. I’m sure you’ve heard of the term ‘the terrible two’s’, yes that was me.
“I grew up with the nickname ‘Satan’ in my house, thanks to my older brother. My mum decided to try me out in some kind of hobby to burn me out and that’s when I started with ballet lessons at three years old. I have danced ever since.”
“I trained professionally in Musical Theatre with sights to perform on stage in the West End or touring in shows, unfortunately in my final year of training I suffered an injury to the ankle and missed out on a lot of important training.
“It took quite a while for my ankle to heal and I still have to be careful to this day and so at 22 I took the path of teaching instead. I began teaching children dance in Primary schools through the ‘D Project’. I completed a dance degree in 2018 which furthered my knowledge in dance to be able to pass on to my students.
“After my injury I came across a Salsa night in Darlington at a place called Voodoo Cafe. At first I couldn’t get my head around how people could just randomly dance with each other and just know what to do as I was always used to learning a choreographed routine but this was literally free styling in partners and it intrigued me.
“I soon became a regular at Voodoo Cafe to which I then discovered Kizomba and it honestly stole my heart.
“It is a beautiful dance about connection and being in the moment with the person you are dancing with at the time, it can be very playful and very sensual depending on the song. I love the music and although it’s mainly sang in Portuguese or Creole, which I don’t understand, it touches your heart and soul because the music is beautiful.
“Because I fell in love with this dance and had also discovered a passion for teaching, I decided to start teaching Kizomba… and so my company VersaStyle Dance Events was born. I get many people asking what on earth that is, I basically mixed together versatile and style because I’m a versatile dancer of many styles of dance, therefore VersaStyle just made sense to me. I can’t take all the credit though, my mum helped. I began teaching Kizomba in Darlington at Voodoo Cafe and then also set up classes in Newcastle which were very popular.”
The dancers on the video are from Lauren’s Newcastle and Darlington groups.
You can watch the video here.
You can find out more about Lauren’s work from the links below:
Solo Video Project (Music by C4 Pedro – Nossas Coisas)
Group Project No.1 (Music by C4 Pedro ft Anselmo Ralph – Perigosa)
Group Project No.2 (Music by Djodje – Bela)
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